Oil is up around $110 per barrel; the price of gas at the pump is approaching $4 per gallon. It’s clear the White House is nervous about this: Barack Obama has started mentioning gas prices everywhere he goes. There are two big questions here: Are rising gas prices going to sink Obama’s presidency? And, either way, is there anything that can actually be done about them? High gas prices are unquestionably a pain for many Americans.
The public uprisings spreading like wildfire from Tunisia to the Persian Gulf have been referred to collectively as the “Arab Spring.” But in fact, as the Obama administration crafts its policy responses, it should strive to avoid this unifying narrative, lest it obscure the unique challenges faced by each country, as well as the distinctive ramifications that each uprising has for U.S. interests.
In the wake of the release of the 2010 Census data, how to address shrinking cities, like the stunning Detroit decline, is again a topic for debate. As my colleague Jennifer Bradley points out in a New York Times “Room for Debate” post, unbuilding cities is expensive. She argues that, considering the extent to which the federal government subsidized development, cities should be allocated funds for unbuilding, or at least be allowed to repurpose extent funding for demolition and the like. Another case where one-size-fits-all federal policy fails.
Thomas Sugrue, writing in the New York Times op-ed page, calls the fear of crime cited by white Detroiters a pretext for racism: Those who left the city cited various reasons: desire for a little green space, new housing, better schools, freedom from crime.
There are many statistics emerging from the Census that dramatically document Detroit’s decline. My favorite, from the Changing Gears public radio project is this one: In 1950, Detroit had 1.8 million people, and about 200,000 were employed in manufacturing, more than one in 10. Today, 20,000 of Detroit’s remaining 714,000 people work in manufacturing, or about one in 50 residents.
How much, in percentage terms, has the white population of Detroit declined from its high in the mid-1950s? Answer is in the comment section.
What are states good for? The 19th century answer was that states are a critical counterweight to federal power. The 20th century answer was that states are laboratories of democracy--tinkering with the beta versions of laws and policies before other states or the federal government adopted them on a large scale. The 21st century answer is that states are the enablers and supporters of metropolitan economies. One problem: States don’t really think this way. According to law, all the component elements of metros--cities, counties, townships, villages, etc.--are creatures of the state.
Sprinkling some vinegar to counteract the oily Graham Nash, David Crosby provided a bracing moment of skepticism toward the generally sanctimonious pop-star posturing documented in No Nukes, the movie centered on a series of concerts and rallies staged to protest nuclear power and nuclear arms in 1979. Pop musicians are not particularly well-equipped to speak with authority on issues such as nuclear policy, Crosby said at a press conference captured in the film; but they have a public forum, he said, and can’t help themselves.
Please indulge me while I share some local news: Rick Snyder, newly elected governor in my home state of Michigan, announced this week that he will call for massive cuts in state spending on education.* Very roughly, it will result in a reduction of about $470 per student. I know enough about public education, and public education bureaucracies, to believe that school districts could find ways to reduce spending without hurting the quality of education.
The federal government's rescue of Chrysler and General Motors was highly unpopular at the time; the majority of voters saw it as one more wasteful, unjustified bailout. And it wasn't just the average voter who hated the idea. Most experts on the right and quite a few on the left predicted it would end badly. As the argument went, the companies were in a hopeless situation, burdened by unsustainable labor costs and incapable of competing with foreign manufacturers that made better cars.